Jamaicans always say “children are the future,” but some of the most recent headlines concerning the nation’s youth have been quite unsettling. While many of our children are undoubtedly flourishing – doing well in school, living in loving homes with adults who have their best interests at heart, there are others for whom these things are far from reality. Thankfully, there are people and organisations that work tirelessly to help create change for children in these unfortunate situations. These are some of the main agencies and organisations that advocate for and support Jamaica’s children (Please click the names for directory information)
- Child Development Agency – The Child Development Agency (CDA) is the executive agency of the Ministry of Health which has responsibility for providing a stable and nurturing living environment for children who are in need of care and protection. The CDA receives and investigates reports of abuse, neglect and abandonment and offers other services such as monitoring police lock-ups and children in residential care, and also handles adoptions and foster care programmes.
- Jamaicans For Justice – Founded in 1999, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-violent citizens’ rights action organisation that advocates for good governance and improvements in state accountability and transparency. JFJ also does extensive work advocating for children’s rights. For instance, the organisation was involved in drafting the original Child Care and Protection Act and has provided a written contribution to its current review. It is also dedicated to ending the practice of placing minors who run afoul of the law in adult correctional facilities. To find out more about the JFJ’s work in the area of child advocacy, read this article from director Kay Osborne.
- National Child Month Committee – The National Child Month Committee (NCMC) was formed in 1953. Lady Foote, wife of the then Governor Foote felt that there was a need for the nation to take time out to focus on issues that affect the nation’s children. The NCMC’s mission is “to use the month of May, recognized nationwide as Child Month, to educate the public about the needs of children and articulate what each of us can do to help.”
- Office of the Children’s Advocate – The Office of the Children’s Advocate is a commission of Parliament mandated to enforce and protect the rights and best interests of children. The OCA was established in 2006 under the Child Care and Protection Act (2004). The OCA’s vision is that children in Jamaica will “enjoy their rights to survival, development, protection and participation, as well as consideration of their best interest at all times.” The current Children’s Advocate is Diahann Gordon Harrison.
- Office of the Children’s Registry – The main role of the Children’s Registry is to receive reports of children who have been, are being or are likely to be abandoned, neglected, physically or sexually ill-treated, or are otherwise in need of care and protection. After receiving these reports, the Children’s Registry records, assesses and then refers the reports to the Child Development Agency and the Office of the Children’s Advocate for investigation and appropriate action. The OCR is also the agency responsible for operating the Ananda Alert system.
- Voluntary Organization For The Upliftment Of Children – VOUCH emerged from the merger of two major voluntary organisations, which formerly worked for and with children all over Jamaica. These were the Child Welfare Organisation (CWO) and the Jamaica Children’s Service Society (JCSS). This non-profit, non-sectarian, non-governmental organisation aims at providing for the total needs of children up to 6 years of age, including the welfare of the family, especially mothers.